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Caliph Mamun,1 points to his desire to concentrate the forces of the Empire on the defence of Sicily. But though he failed to secure peace in the East, we should expect to find that he made some extraordinary effort on the news of the fall of Panormos. There is, however, no record of the despatch of any new armament or relief to the western island at this time.
The winning of such an important basis and naval station marks the completion of the first stage in the Moslem conquest. If the operations hitherto had been somewhat of the nature of an experiment, the African Emir was now confirmed in his ambitious policy of annexing Sicily, and Panormos was the nucleus of a new province over which he appointed Abu Fihr as governor. It is probable that during the next few years progress was made in reducing the western districts of the island, but for nine years no capture of an important town or fortress marked the advance of the invaders. Abu Fihr and his successors 2 won some battles, and directed their arms against Castrogiovanni, which on one occasion almost fell into their hands. Kephaloedion, on the north coast, now called Cefalù, was attacked in A.D. 838, but timely help arriving from Constantinople forced the enemy to raise the siege. It is probable that the success of the Greeks in stemming the tide of conquest was due to the ability of the Caesar Alexios Musele, who was entrusted with the command of the Sicilian forces.5 He returned to Constantinople (perhaps in A.D. 839) accused of ambitious designs against the throne, and after his departure the enemy made a notable advance by reducing the fortresses of Corleone, Platani, and Caltabellotta-the ancient Sican fortress of Kamikos (A.D. 840). Two or three years later, Al-Fald
1 See above 2 Fald ibn Yakub and Abu 'l-Aghlab Ibrahim (A.D. 835).
3 A.D. 837. Vasil'ev, 113. Some fortresses were taken (apparently on the north coast) in A.D. 836, 837. Ibn al-Athir, 95; Ibn Adari, 147 (whose M-d-nar is taken by Amari to represent Tyndaris; Amari ad loc. and Storia, i. 305-306). The Arabs also operated in the region of Etna in A.D. 836, Ibn al-Athir, ib.
4 Ibn al-Athir, ib. "large maritime forces of the Greeks arrived in Sicily."
achieved the second great step in the conquest, the capture of Messina. Aided by Naples, which had allied itself to the new power in Sicily, he besieged the town by land and sea, and after all his assaults had been repelled, took it by an artifice. Secretly sending a part of his forces into the mountains which rise behind the city, he opened a vigorous attack from the sea-side. When all the efforts of the garrison were concentrated in repelling it, the concealed troops descended from the hills and scaled the deserted walls on the landward side. The town was compelled to
The invaders had now established themselves in two of the most important sites in Sicily; they were dominant in the west and they held the principal city in the north-east. In a few years the captures of Motyke2 and its neighbour Ragusa gave them a footing for the conquest of the southeast. An army which the Empress Theodora sent to the island, where a temporary respite from the hostilities of the Eastern Saracens had been secured, was defeated with great loss; and soon afterwards the warrior who had subdued Messina captured Leontini. When Al-Fald laid siege to it, the Greek stratêgos marched to its relief, having arranged with the garrison to light a beacon on a neighbouring hill to prepare them for his approach. Al-Fald discovered that this signal had been concerted, and immediately lit a fire on three successive days. On the fourth day, when the relieving army ought to have appeared, the besieged issued from the gates, confident of victory. The enemy, by a
1 The siege began in 843 or end of 842 (in A.H. 228 which began Oct. 16, 842, Ibn al-Athir, 95). In the same year M.s.kan was taken: Amari (Storia, i. 314) identifies it with Alimena, north-west of Castrogiovanni.
2 Modica, A.D. 845. Cambridge Chron. 26, ind. 8 éπiάonoαν тà καστέλλια τῆς τουρακιναίας καὶ ὁ ἅγιος ̓Ανανίας τῆς Μούτικας. Can Turakinaia conceal Trinakia?
3 A.D. 848. Ragusa ('Poyol) seems to be the ancient Hybla.
4 Cambridge Chron. ind. 9 (Sept. 845-Aug. 846) ἐγένετο ὁ πόλεμος τοῦ Xapraviti, which Amari and Vasil'ev explain with probability by supposing
that the Greek army was largely composed of troops of the Charsian province. The army would have been sent soon after the exchange of captives in A.D. 845 (see above, p. 275), and the battle may have been fought early in 846 (Vasil'ev). It is probably to be identified with the battle which Ibn al-Athir (96) records in A.D. 843-844, for he says that more than 10,000 Greeks fell, and acc. to the Cambridge Chron. 9000 were slain. Ibn al-Athir mentions the place of the battle as Sh-r-t; Amari (ad loc.) would identify it with Butera north of Gela. The Saracen general was Abu 'l-Aghlab al-Abbas, afterwards governor.
feigned flight, led them into an ambush, and the city, meanwhile, was almost undefended and fell an easy prey.1
The irregularity in the rate of progress of the conquest may probably be explained, at least in part, by the fact that the Moslems were engaged at the same time in operations in Southern Italy, which will presently claim our attention. For more than ten years after the fall of Leontini, the energy of the invaders appears to have flagged or expended itself on smaller enterprises; 2 and then a new period of active success begins with the surrender of Kephaloedion (A.D. 857-858).3 A year or so later, the mighty fortress of the Sicels and now the great bulwark of the Greeks in the centre of the island, Castrogiovanni, was at last subdued. The capture of this impregnable citadel was, as we might expect, compassed with the aid of a traitor. A Greek prisoner purchased his life from the Arab governor, Abbas, by undertaking to lead him into the stronghold by a secret way. With two thousand horsemen Abbas proceeded to Castrogiovanni, and on a dark night some of them penetrated into the place through a watercourse which their guide pointed out. The garrison had no suspicion that they were about to be attacked; the gate was thrown open, and the citadel was taken (Jan. 24, A.D. 859). It was a success which ranked in importance with the captures of Panormos and Messina, and the victors marked their satisfaction by sending some of the captives as a gift to the Caliph Mutawakkil.
The fall of Castrogiovanni excited the Imperial government to a new effort." A fleet of three hundred warships
1 Date between Aug. 846 and Aug. In the following year the Arabic 847 Ibn al-Athir, ib., Cambridge Chron. 26.
writers chronicle depredations and the captures of unnamed forts.
A.H. 243 April 857-April 858. 4 The Cambridge Chronicle calls it by its old name: "Evve (28).
5 The stratêgos of Sicily had removed his headquarters from Syracuse to Castrogiovanni, as a safer place. Ibn al-Athir, 97.
2 In 851 3 Caltavuturo (in the mountains south of Cefalù) was taken. In the same year the governor Abu '1-Aghlab Ibrahim died and Abu '1-Aghlab Abbas was elected in his stead. A.D. 854 was marked by the siege of Butera (Boońp): the Cambridge Chronicle, 28, states that it was taken then, but Ibn al-Athir (103) that after a siege of five or six months the inhabitants bought themselves off. So Ibn Adari (147 and in Vasil'ev, Pril. 114), who adds that S-kh (or m)-r-n was taken. Amari conjectures Kamarina (Storia, i. 324).
6 In A.D. 858 a naval battle was fought, in which the Greeks were victorious. The Greek vessels, forty in number, were commanded by "the Cretan" (Nuwairi 175) whom Vasil'ev proposes to identify with Joannes Creticus, stratêgos of Peloponnesus under Basil I. (Cont. Th. 303). The
arrived at Syracuse in the late autumn under the command of Constantine Kontomytes. The army landed, but was utterly defeated by Abbas, who marched from Panormos. The coming of the Greek fleet incited some of the towns in the west to rebel against their Arab lords, but they were speedily subdued, and Abbas won a second victory over the Greek forces near Cefalù. This was the last effort of the Amorian dynasty to rescue the island of the west from the clutch of Islam. Before the death of Michael III. the invaders had strengthened their power in the south-east by the captures of Noto 2 and Scicli, and in the north-east the heights of Tauromenium had fallen into their hands.3 Syracuse was still safe, but its fall, which was to complete the conquest of Sicily, was only reserved for the reign of Michael's successor.*
§ 3. The Invasion of Southern Italy
As a result of the Italian conquests of Charles the Great, two sovran powers divided the dominion of Italy between them. The Eastern Empire retained Venice, a large part of Campania, and the two southern extremities; all the rest of the peninsula was subject to the new Emperor of the West. But this simple formula is far from expressing the actual situation. On one hand, the nominal allegiance to
sources differ as to this battle, Ibn al-Athir and Ibn Adari representing the Moslems as victorious, while the Cambridge Chronicle says (28) έπiáσθησαν τὰ καράμια τοῦ ̓Αλή. Nuwairi acknowledges the defeat, but places it at Crete.
1 Cambridge Chron. 28 (ind. 8=85960) κατῆλθεν ὁ Κονδυμήττης. The Arabic version has "the Fandami landed. I suspect that Qandami (Kondyme[tes]) was intended. The letters fa and qaf differ only by a dot. Constantine Kontomytes, stratêgos of Sicily, is mentioned in Cont. Th. 175. Vasil'ev distinguishes him from Constantine Kontomytes, who was stratêgos of the Thrakesian Theme under Theophilus (Cont. Th. 137). I see no reason for not identifying them.
2 τὸ Νέτος (between Syracuse and Motyke), north of the modern Noto.
Taken in 864 it had to be retaken in 866 (Cambridge Chron. 30). During these years (862-867) Hafaja ibn Sufyan was governor. Abbas had died in 861 at q-r-q-nah (Ibn al-Athir, 97; Caltagirano? Vasil'ev), where he was buried. The Greeks dug up his corpse and burned it.
8 Ibn al-Athir, 98. Amari (Storia, i. 347) thinks it possible that Troina (west of Etna) is meant. But Vasil'ev has no doubts that Taormina is indicated. Envoys from Taormina met Hafaja near Mount Etna and proposed terms. Hafaja sent his wife and son to the city and a treaty was concluded. But the inhabitants broke the treaty, and the governor sent his son against it and it was taken (866). So Ibn al-Athir.
Charles which the great Lombard Duchy of Beneventum pretended to acknowledge, did not affect its autonomy or hinder its Dukes from pursuing their own independent policy in which the Frankish power did not count; on the other hand, the cities of the Campanian coast, while they respected the formal authority of the Emperor at Constantinople, virtually, like Venice, managed their own affairs, and were left to protect their own interests. The actual power of
Charles did not reach south of the Pontifical State and the Duchy of Spoleto; the direct government of Nicephorus extended only over the southern parts of Calabria and Apulia. These relatively inconsiderable Byzantine districts were now an appendage to Sicily; they were administered by an official entitled the Duke of Calabria; but he was dependent on the Sicilian stratêgos. In Calabria-the ancient Bruttii-the northern boundary of his province was south of Cosenza and Bisignano, which were Lombard;1 in Apulia, the chief cities were Otranto2 and Gallipoli. These two districts were cut asunder by the Lombards, who were lords of Tarentum; so that the communications among the three territories which formed the western outpost of the Eastern Empire-Sicily, Calabria, and Apulia—were entirely maritime.
In the eighth century the city of Naples was loyally devoted to Constantinople, and the Emperors not only appointed the consular dukes who governed her, but exercised a real control over her through the stratêgoi of Sicily. seemed probable that under this Byzantine influence, Naples would, like Sicily and Calabria, become Graecised, and her attitude was signally hostile to Rome. But in the reign of Irene, a duke named Stephen played a decisive rôle in the history of the city and averted such a development. He aimed at loosening, without cutting, the bonds which attached Naples to Constantinople, and founding a native dynasty. His régime is marked by a reaction in favour of Latin; he is determined that the Neapolitan clergy shall inherit the traditions of Latin and not of Greek Christendom.3 And if he is careful to avoid any rupture with the Empire
1 The most important places in Byzantine Calabria were Reggio, Cotrone, Rossano and Amantea.
2 Recovered c. A.D. 758 from the
Lombards. Cod. Carolinus, Ep. 17, p. 515 (M.G.H., Epp. Mer. et Kar. aevi, i. ed. Gundlach).
3 Gay, L'Italie mér. 18-19.